Combining the style of the RAZR with the music capabilities of the Chocolate (minus the finicky controls), the VX8600 is a super-skinny, shiny black flip phone that is as tasty on the outside as it is on the inside. Nicknamed the "Chocolate Flip," it's available from Verizon for $129 with a two-year contract and is an excellent choice for music-loving cell phone users who want to listen and talk in style.
The VX8600 feels very smooth in the palm, and its buttons are easy to manipulate. The phone is only 0.6 inches thick and weighs a mere 3.3 ounces. You'll find a 1.3-inch external color screen and a bright 2.2-inch, 262,000-color internal display that's ideal for watching V CAST videos. Other features include stereo Bluetooth, a microSD Card slot, and compatibility with Verizon's VZ Navigator Service.
The VX8600 uses a scrolling menu with only a few action categories to choose from. It would have been nice to have a dedicated key for listening to music, since the VX8600 is touted as a music phone. One helpful shortcut: Pressing the right arrow on the multidirectional keypad takes users straight to the Get It Now submenu.
The phone is compatible with Verizon's V CAST video service, through which users can stream video clips to the phone from various channels for $15 per month. You get the usual news (CNN and NBC Mobile), weather (The Weather Channel), and sports clips (ESPN and Fox Sports), but the carrier recently added clips from hipper content providers such as YouTube and Revver. We logged into the TV to Go section of V CAST Videos and streamed some clips of Ugly Betty. The picture was clearer than we expected and streamed at a consistent frame rate.
Users can download music straight from V CAST Music via the handset. We went online and grabbed "Wind It Up" by Gwen Stefani and "Electric Guitar" by Talking Heads for $1.99 each. Downloading music was a bit slow, but we did like being able to see album art when browsing song titles.
Songs cost a more reasonable 99 cents if you download them onto your PC instead of over the air. To transfer those tracks to the VX8600, however, you'll need a $30 Music Essentials Kit, which includes a data cable, software CD, and stereo headset. Verizon includes only a headset adapter in the box.
The phone's speaker can pump the volume surprisingly high, but we found the quality a bit fuzzy. If you want to go wireless, pair the VX8600 with a stereo Bluetooth headset or portable Bluetooth speakers. We had no problems doing either in our tests.
We liked being able to change songs via the Chocolate-like, glowing red external controls (the sensitivity of which can be adjusted to make it easier or harder to affect the MP3 player's actions). We also dug that the V CAST album art showed up in the phone's external display when listening to songs downloaded from the service.
The VX8600's 1.3-megapixel camera can be accessed from an external button and works in self-portrait mode when the phone is closed. It took fairly clear, bright shots for the resolution, and LG includes convenient lighting-correction functions. As expected, the shutter speed was considerably slow, so be sure to tell subjects to keep still.
For the most part, the VX8600 could be better as a phone. During our tests in and around Manhattan, call quality was pretty clear on our end, but we were told by our test recipient that our voice sounded scratchy (we called both his cell and landline). The handset has a rated 3.6 hours of talk time and 6.6 days of standby time.
Despite a few drawbacks, the LG VX8600 is the clamshell to own if you're looking to combine style and multimedia power with ease of use. This is now our favorite V CAST phone.
LG VX8700 Review
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